I went to Richmond yesterday (March 3) to sit in on the Senate Education and Health Committee, which was slated to consider three anti-abortion bills. It’s the same thing every year – the House of Delegates passes the Republican “anti” bills and this Senate committee kills them. In fact, it’s called the killing ground for these totally unnecessary bills. Still – I’m glad I went and wish more people would go. If we’re not there, they’ll think we don’t care – and who knows what (additional) mischief will happen? So, I urge people to show up in Richmond at appropriate times, when NOW and others request that they be there.
This committee operates like a formal dance – everyone has their place and they perform as rehearsed and expected. The two bills that were considered – TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) and “informed consent” – both failed 11-4, with Republican Fred Quayle voting with the 10 Democrats. Quayle is an old-timer and I guess he doesn’t much like the lock-step politics of the right wing-nuts and their fixation on abortion. Another interesting note on the Republicans – both Gov. McDonnell and Atty General Cuccinelli sent representatives to speak in favor of both bills (in case anyone thought they were against them). Cuccinelli continues to build his empire, I guess. Or, to continue the metaphor of the dance, fill up his dance card.
I drove almost 250 miles (round-trip, $40 in gas) to sit in on this committee meeting, and possibly to speak about one or two bills. Why bother to show up? (And let me say I had to leave at 6:45 am to get there on time, and I’m not a morning person. ) Does anyone really care if I speak? Actually, I did this for a woman named Alexandra Dixon, who wanted NOW to – in her words – “stand up for me and say ‘this is unacceptable.’” She was referring to Delegate Bob Marshall’s horrible remark that babies born to a woman after she had an abortion were more likely to suffer disabilities – which he said was a punishment from God. (He apologized – to people with disabilities, NOT TO WOMEN.) So when I spoke to the committee, I tried to say what Alexandra wanted – that women are sick and tired of these insulting bills and the degrading attitude shown toward women.
Today, Marshall looked like a failed junior high school teacher – mumbling, downcast, sloppily dressed, paunchy, messy hair. He cited what he called a recent research study showing that abortion has serious negative consequences. That was a mistake because Dr. Wendy Klein – a noted expert in women’s health – was there and she knew the facts. She said the study had been done in the 50s and 60s, when abortion was illegal, so of course there would be bad outcomes from back-alley butchery. Dr. Klein objected to Marshall “cherry picking” data – a polite word for distorting facts and research.
Victoria Cobb of the Family Foundation also spoke, reeling off so many horrific “facts” about the dangers of abortion that it’s a wonder that so many American women are alive (considering 1 in 3 has an abortion at some point in her life).
They both claimed they only wanted to protect women. Actually, they want to reduce women to dependent victims with no control over their reproductive capacities. Baby machines.
Senator Dick Saslaw delivered the put-down of the morning. Marshall was defending his “informed consent” bill. He said that both he and Delegate Vivian Watts – who is pro-choice and a friend of NOW – supported it and that all delegates but four voted for it (two actually meant to vote for it and two abstained). Imagine – peace at last in the abortion wars! Not so fast. Saslaw kind of jumped around in his seat (coming in for the kill, so to speak) and said the only reason the bill passed overwhelmingly in the House was that everyone knew it would be killed in the Senate Education and Health Committee. As it was. Honesty – a wonderful thing.
The bill I wanted to testify about – Del. Kathy Byron’s bill requiring an ultrasound before an abortion – was not heard because Byron failed to show up. Why go to all the trouble to introduce a bill if you’re not going to show up when it’s heard? She must have known it would be killed in this committee but she introduced it anyway. What a waste of time and money (taxpayers’ money, that is).
I delivered a copy of the NOW Roe v. Wade signature ad that ran in the Richmond Times-Dispatch to the mailbox of every senator and delegate – all 140. So, NOW members and friends who endorsed the ad – your collective voice was heard. Thank you for making it so.